SK Group Executives Questioned in Park Geun-hye Bribery Probe
South Korean prosecutors have questioned senior executives of SK Group, the country’s third-largest conglomerate, over allegations that SK Group made hefty donations to the Mir and K-Sports foundations, controlled by Choi Soon-sil (the jailed confidante of ousted President Park Geun-hye), in exchange for business favors in the same corruption scandal that ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
Prosecutors summoned Kim Chang-geun, former chairman of the SUPEX Council (SK Group’s top decision-making body), and two other senior executives on March 16 to look into whether the donations were actually bribes in disguise.
Kim Chang-geun allegedly had a private meeting with Park in July 2015 in Samcheong-dong to discuss a presidential pardon for SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won.
Prosecutors have confirmed that Kim Chang-geun sent Ahn Chong-bum, then senior secretary for economy at the Blue House, a text message saying, “Thank you for granting Chey a special pardon. I’ll never forget your kindness.”
SK Group is accused of donating a total of 11.1 billion won to the Mir and K-Sports foundations, controlled by Choi Soon-sil, between 2015 and 2016 to win the presidential pardon for its chairman
SK Group is also accused of lobbying Choi Soon-sil and other political figures to win a duty-free business license. In November 2015, K Group failed to renew its license for its sole duty free shop at the Sheraton Walkerhill Hotel in eastern Seoul. However, in April last year, the Park Geun-hye government decided to issue additional duty-free business licenses to three conglomerates, including SK Group. Prosecutors noted that the government made such a decision right after SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won had a one-one-one meeting with Park Geun-hye.
Thus, the prosecutors suspect that Chey asked for business favors from Park Geun-hye during the meeting in exchange for additional donations to the K-Sports Foundation. After the one-one-one meeting, SK Group donated 3 billion won to the K-Sports Foundation though the K-Sports Foundation demanded an additional donation of 8 billion won.